Graceland, Levitt Shell and ‘I Heart Memphis’ mural tagged with ‘Defund the Police’ graffiti

The famed wall at Graceland was found defaced with Tuesday morning.
The famed wall at Graceland was found defaced with Tuesday morning.(WMC)
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:07 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/Gray News) - Several iconic landmarks in Memphis were hit by graffiti overnight, including the former home of Elvis Presley.

Messages of “Defund the Police” and “BLM” marked the wall outside Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard, the Levitt Shell Amphitheater in Overton Park and the “I Heart Memphis” mural in midtown Memphis.

All three were found tagged Tuesday morning with similar messages, some using profanity.

“We were just driving by this morning and we looked over,” said Alice Self, Elvis fan. “We just couldn’t believe it. We were just stunned by it.”

Bill Stanley, Elvis’ stepbrother, says he’s appalled that someone would deface Elvis’ home.

“This is totally uncalled for,” said Stanley. “One of the saddest days of my life. I mean, besides the day that Elvis passed away, this right here is right up next to it.”

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, offered a different take on the graffiti, posting on Facebook: “What’s the real issue here? Every visitor that has come to Graceland has written on that wall and there were no complaints. So, really, it’s WHAT was written, not the fact that it was written.”

A spokesperson for Graceland said they had no comment on the graffiti, but a spokesperson for the Levitt Shell said this is the sixth time this year they’ve been vandalized.

Levitt Shell was found vandalized with graffiti.
Levitt Shell was found vandalized with graffiti.(Source: WMC)

“That’s why this is such a devastating situation seeing it this morning,” said Natalie Wilson, Levitt Shell executive director. “It’s getting worse.”

Wilson says she doesn’t condone the graffiti, but she hopes the historic space can be a place where the community can heal.

“Defacing our stage is not appropriate; however, we acknowledge their pain and we want to say to our community ‘it’s time the conversations are deeper, they’re more productive and that change happens with good communication’,” said Wilson.

The pandemic has taken a toll on the Levitt Shell, now facing an $800,000 budget shortfall and a costly clean-up. By Tuesday afternoon, the City of Memphis had the graffiti cleaned from the Shell.

Back at Graceland, a worker power washed the graffiti from the wall Tuesday morning.

The vandalism at the “I Heart Memphis” mural was caught on camera by surveillance cameras at a nearby business. It shows two cars pull up to the mural right before 2 a.m. Tuesday. On the video, five people can be seen spray painting the mural, leaving behind vulgar messages. About three minutes later, the cars drive away.

Memphis police are investigating to determine who is responsible for the graffiti.

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